Sam Evans-Brown

Environment and Education Reporter

 

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for  New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. His work has won several local broadcast journalism awards, and he was a 2013 Steinbrenner Institute Environmental Media Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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The number of fatal crashes on New Hampshire roads dropped in 2011 by nearly a third.

The coordinator of the Highway Safety Agency, Peter Thomson, says that the state police are targeting factors that cause fatal crashes: speed, distracted driving, and drugs and alcohol.

He says so far this year, eighty-seven people have died in crashes, which is the lowest number in fifty years.

He credits, among other things, the safe commute program which the state police instituted this year.

Flikr Creative Commons / drocpsu

 

 

A Portsmouth bookstore that was saved from closing by local investors will be shutting its doors for the month of January.

Tom Holbrook, one of the owners of RiverRun Books, had hoped that the store would only be closed for a week or so when it moved to a new space.

But renovations on the new store weren’t completed in time and the lease on the old one was up, so for the month of January RiverRun will only be selling books online.

iagoarchangel / Flikr Creative Commons

 

A winter that has begun with warm nights and balmy days, has given the ski season a rocky start.

According to SkiNH revenues at New Hampshire ski areas are behind the same point last year.

Most of New Hampshire’s Ski areas were finally able to open this past week, but with a rain storm in the forecast, prospects for a profitable holiday season are dim.

And Karl Stone of SkiNH says that the holidays are crucial.

jcbwalsh / flikr Creative Commons

 

Flakes will start to fly tonight after an unseasonably warm December.

NHPR talked to a National Weather Service forecaster about the probability of a white Christmas.

According to weather data, on any given year there’s at least at 75% chance there will be snow on the ground in New Hampshire Christmas day.

Michael Esker – a forecaster in Gray, Maine – thinks that probability isn’t going to change this year.

A storm will shoot through tonight, leaving just enough snow to frost the state and make things look festive.

 

In an attempt to save $400,000 in Medicaid spending, State health officials are planning major funding cuts to child and family health programs. 

 

Lisabritt Solsky, the deputy director of Medicaid, said state health officials had no choice but to make the cuts.

Solsky: The legislature acted and reduced our budget, the funding is gone for this, it is not something we asked for and it is not something we promoted

Sam Evans-Brown

 

The redistricting of New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is proving to be very tricky.

The Republican leadership proposed a new map this week, and critiques are rolling in.

Redistricting is never particularly easy; representatives tend to like the districts that elected them.

And considering that the right to re-draw the political map is a spoil that goes to the victors of the last election cycle, partisan friction is inevitable.

But this time around, redistricting has gotten very complicated.

Staff photo

 

Refugees in the state will receive almost a half million dollars of federal funding for health and social services.

The executive council had put that money on hold last month at the request of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Councilor Ray Wieczorek says that he still has reservations about the number of refugees being resettled in Manchester.

Wieczorek: we ought to try to spread it out a little bit so that the responsibility is spread amongst at least eleven cities.

Flikr Creative Commons / Ben McLeod

Today New Hampshire lawmakers got an update on the economic outlook from a series of forecasters

The Ways and Means Committees from both the House and Senate heard in a day’s worth of presentations that while the economy is improving, it’s doing so very slowly, and the recovery is fragile.

A rebound in the housing market is especially far off, as home sales in New Hampshire have been essentially flat for the past two years.

Key Lime Pie yumyum / Flikr Creative Commons

 

 

Concord City council has approved a pilot program to allow chickens on urban lots that are less than 1 acre in size.

For the next 21 months Concord residents will be able to keep five hens, but no roosters due to noise concerns.

After 21 months the ordinance will be reevaluated to determine if issues raised at the hearing are worth worrying about.

Ben Leubsdorf covered the vote for the Concord Monitor.

Courtesy Photo

 

The New Hampshire Community College System has appointed Economist Ross Gittell as its new Chancellor.

The new chancellor is already a heavy-hitter in policy circles.

Gittell’s nineteen-year career at the Whittemore school of Business has followed an impressive arc.

He has won numerous awards and fellowships, and is considered one of the foremost experts on the New Hampshire economy

Gittell hopes to use that pedigree to make sure that the Community College system is staying relevant.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

Two men who had threatened to bring guns onto Plymouth State University’s campus triggered strong reactions from members of the campus community.

The anti-gun-law protesters who accompanied the men sang songs, and engaged onlookers in conversations about the right to bear arms.

Student Alex Cabeceiras says that he thinks no-one on campus took part in the protest.

Cabeceiras: I think it’s pretty stupid, I mean, I’m all for you know, being against the state infringing on our rights but something about fire-arms and education don’t seem to mesh well.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

Two men who had been threatening to bring guns to Plymouth State University’s campus directed a protest today against the school’s no-firearm policy.

Former cop, Bradley Jardis and Veteran Tommy Mozingo arrived at PSU with an entourage of activists from the Free State Project, who sang Libertarian Christmas Carols.

SFX: Carolling

They came to say that the University does not have the right to ban firearms on campus.

When asked if anyone was carrying weapon as they had said they would, Jardis responded it would be up to the state to prove that.

 

The orange-clad opponents of the Northern pass project came out in force to today’s judiciary committee hearing. 

Their disgust with the committee’s decision to recommend an amendment that would tighten eminent domain laws was palpable.

Opponents are hoping for a bill makes it impossible to use eminent domain to take land for the Northern Pass project.

 Kelly Monahan is the register of deeds for Grafton County.

Sam Evans-Brown

 

Senate lawmakers met today to discuss a bill that would change the rules of eminent domain.

As NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports, the debate is spurred by people concerned that they will lose their land to the Northern Pass Project

The judiciary committee considered more than a half dozen amendments that all sought to clarify when and how utilities can use eminent domain.  

In the end, the committee recommended Republican Senator Sharon Carson’s proposal.

Sam Evans-Brown

The American Lung Association announced a project that will pay individuals in Southern New Hampshire to swap out their old woodstoves.

The money for the program comes from a company’s settlement with the EPA.

The project provides consumers from Merrimack, Hillsborough, and Rockinghman counties vouchers  to replace old, inefficient wood stoves, with new clean burning ones.

The vouchers are worth anywhere from one to three thousand dollars, and can be used for pellet stoves, or wood-burning stoves.

Flikr Creative Commons / drocpsu

The push to support local businesses – Buy Local campaigns – are gaining steam, and Invest-Local is no exception.

In Portsmouth, so called “Locavestors” have come together to save a community book store.

RiverRun bookstore sits near the center of downtown Portsmouth.

It’s a bright shop, with big windows looking out onto historic Congress Street.

Customers Nancy Pollard and Elria Ewing are in browsing for replicas of old maps of downtown.

They love their local bookseller.

, Treating mental illness can take many forms. There are drugs, group therapy, and art therapy and the list goes on.

A new program in the Concord area is getting promising results by taking clients to a typical New England farm.

Mental health care doesn’t just take place in sterile offices or on therapists’ couches.

Some of the real breakthroughs happen out in the real world.

A new program in the Concord area is getting clients out to a local farm.

dougtone / Flikr Creative Commons

In this era of belt-tightening small towns are increasingly using partnerships to trim their budgets.

A pair of surveys conducted by the New Hampshire Municipal Association finds that a trend of sharing services is growing.

Over half of New Hampshire municipalities participated, and 40 percent of respondents share ambulance and EMT services.

Not unexpectedly many small towns share things like transfer stations and parks and recreation departments.

New Hampshire conservation groups and agricultural interests are holding their breath, watching Washington this week.

The Farm Bill – which pays for crop subsidies, conservation grants, and nutrition programs like food-stamps – is up for reauthorization.

But, as NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports, this time around, the rules of the game have changed.

The Farm Bill is a big bill.

According the Congressional Budget Office, by itself it accounts for 2% of all government spending.

secretlondon123/Flikr Creative Commons

 

A forecast released today warns that the New Hampshire economy is skating on thin ice.

The report from the New England Economic Partnership says that acceleration from private-sector job creation has been partially offset by a shrinking public sector.

Economist Dennis Delay also says that employment and the housing market have not rebounded as quickly as expected.

He says that if growth had continued at the same pace as in 2008, there would be fifty-thousand more jobs in the state than there are today.

Deanna Couture

Between 2000 and 2009 New Hampshire’s Latino population grew by 79 percent.

These changes have created new challenges for some New Hampshire schools.

SFX: announcements, and hall noises

Walking through the halls of Nashua South High school, it’s clear where everyone stands. Literally.

Students Talking: This is the Spanish corner, yeah basically yeah this is the Spanish corner, like Dominican, Puerto Rican, right there is the Mexican corner, for real. (Spanish chat fades away, hall SFX continues)

Courtesy Photo, MCC

With today’s unemployment levels, it’s hard to imagine that New Hampshire companies are still hiring guest workers from abroad.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports that even in a flooded labor market, skilled immigrants continue to plug a gaping hole in the New Hampshire economy.

Universal Software is an IT consulting firm with branches all around the world.

SFX: Office Ambiance

Its Nashua offices are quiet, with plenty of empty cubicles waiting to be filled.

The ballots have been tallied from yesterday’s municipal elections, and New Hampshire voters have by-and-large chosen to hang on to their incumbents.

Mayors in Concord, Manchester, Rochester all defeated challengers by wide margins, while those in Nashua, Laconia, and Berlin had uncontested elections.

The one exception was in Claremont where Republican challenger James Nielson unseated incumbent Democrat Deborah Cutts by fewer than forty votes.

Dan Tuohy (TWO-ee) a reporter with New Hampshire Patch, spent the evening watching the votes being counted in Concord.

Voters didn’t just vote for mayors and alderman yesterday.

Several ballot initiatives were also passed around the state.

Two similar measures in Manchester and Dover sought to change how the tax cap is calculated in those cities, and give slightly more freedom to elected officials to raise funds.

The measure passed in Manchester but was defeated in Dover.

Meanwhile in Concord, voters passed two charter amendments.

The first gives control of the school board, which had been in the hands of the legislature, back to the municipality.

Manchester Community College has received a grant of nearly 5 million dollars for a worker training program.

As NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports the funds come from an unexpected source.

When American companies can’t find the American workers with the skills they need, they can bring in guest workers on a temporary visa.

Applying for that visa costs the employer a lot of money, and the Department of Labor gives that money back in the form of grants to train Americans.

The New Hampshire Department of Education put out an analysis of the latest round of National standardized test results Today.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports that New Hampshire schools still rank among the best in the country.

Not much has changed  since the last National Assessment of Educational Progress – or NAEP – tests were conducted

New Hampshire fourth graders continue to rank third in the nation, and eighth graders rank eighth.

The DOE’s Tim Eccleston says that New Hampshire students are doing well across the board.

Public Service of New Hampshire is ramping up their efforts to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes.

PSNH’s President Gary Long says that the storm knocked out more major power lines than any storm in the utility’s history.

Over the past two days crews have restored most of these lines, and now expect that power restoration to individual homes will accelerate.

Long: This snowstorm did more damage for this kind of event than we’ve ever seen by some reports in 140 years.

For the third time this year, Governor Lynch is seeking federal money to help pick up the pieces after a major storm.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports.

In a press conference today, the governor made an announcement that is almost starting to become routine.

LYNCH: I am in the process of preparing a request for a federal emergency declaration, and we expect that request to be submitted today.

Negotiations between the faculty union and the administration at the University of New Hampshire broke down for the second time in a year yesterday.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown has the story.

UNH’s negotiator says that in light of the quote “epic” reductions in state funding to the university system, it’s only reasonable to ask professors to share in the cuts.

But the faculty’s negotiator, Dale Barkee, says that pressure to reduce salary and benefits began before cuts in the state’s contribution.

A New Hampshire interest group says they are disappointed with the Republican Party’s push to repeal gay marriage.

NHPR’s Sam Evans-Brown reports.

Standing up for New Hampshire families calls itself a bipartisan group of citizens who oppose repealing New Hampshire’s 2009 gay marriage law.

At a press conference in Concord, the group urged the legislature to listen to their constituents, who support gay marriage 2 to 1.

The group’s spokesperson Tyler Deaton says that his group wants lawmakers to work on other issues.

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